Alexander Graham Bell Hall, one of the NTID residence halls, has recently been renamed. The hall was first named in honor of the famous inventor due to his efforts to teach deaf children how to speak. However, many people, including NTID President Alan Hurwitz, felt that this actually created division in the Deaf community. (Ed: See our coverage of that controversy in The Renaming Of Bell Hall from the 03.21.2008 issue.)
“There was a growing consensus that Bell advocated an exclusive approach to communication that did not support a sense of community of Deaf people who use a variety of communication approaches, including American Sign Language,” said Hurwitz.
Due to the controversy that this issue created, Hurwitz set up an open forum of students, faculty, and staff last spring to discuss the matter. “Those who did not have a strong position felt that the unity of our community was threatened, which saddened and upset them, and me as well,” said Hurwitz. As a result, it was decided that the name would be changed.
As of now, the hall is simply being called NTID Residence Hall 50C. There have been no discussions or plans to pick a new name yet. In regard to a possible new name, Hurwitz said, “RIT policy states that a new name for a building must be connected with a significant contribution to the college and must be tied with RIT’s mission.” So, while anyone is free to suggest names, they must follow this policy and ultimately get approval by the RIT Board of Trustees, who approve the naming of RIT’s buildings.
Bell’s contribution to the Deaf community will continue to be taught in classes about Deaf history. He is even noted in books written by NTID authors Edward Scouten, Harry Lang, and Karen Conner.